I don’t know if I fainted or what, back there at the unveiling of the other one of me that Industry Ed built while I was away, but now I’m back in my room, laid up in bed with flower bouquets and balloons and other Get Well Soon paraphernalia spread all around.

The sound of a jackhammer outside my window — shades drawn — wakes me up, and, not knowing if I have broken bones and ruptured organs also, on top of everything else, I get quickly out of bed and find that I can stand.

So here I am, standing, in stale boxers and undershirt, in my room. I turn ninety degrees, so as to try standing in a new direction, and then another ninety, and ninety more, and then I get bored, and hungry.

I find a breakfast-in-bed tray tipped over and spilled among my sheets, but the spill is such that I can rescue a few elements, such as bread, a mini jar of marmalade with a strip of fancy tape connecting the lid to the sides, and a few (hair inflected) orange and apple slices.

After breakfast, I decide to get to the bottom of what feels strange about this room. “Not about my state in it,” I promise myself, setting a hard and fast rule, “but about the room itself.”

It doesn’t take long to find out: all of the books on all of the shelves have been replaced with brand new editions of Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren.

There are, I’d estimate, ten thousand copies here. The weight of Dhalgren, here in this place where I am, outweighs the weight of me, in any measurable unit of consciousness, by several powers of ten. “You’re the vast minority,” I tell myself.

“Well, great,” I reply. “Here’s what we’ll do then.”

I take ten or twelve copies off the shelf and embed them in the orange- and jelly-streaked sheets, planning to read one after another but soon I’m reading, almost at random, all of them at once.

What a thing: the Kid, or Kidd, comes to Bellona, that ruined but strangely blissed-out Midwestern city, looking for someone or something, maybe William Dhalgren, unless that’s who he is; in the meantime, he has a ton of (widely various) sex, writes poetry, gathers clues, wanders around on one sandal and one bare foot, admires and fights holographic scorpions, and and — I don’t know, all sorts of stuff, I suppose, but I can’t say for sure because I’ve begun to cut the books up into slices, sheets, and ribbons.

I wield a giant carving knife, cutting deep into each of the ten thousand Dhalgrens with a sure-handedness, a kind of definite apprehension of purpose, that I haven’t felt since, or, maybe ever.

When the time is right, I begin sewing, working long hours on my sewing machine, pumping the foot pedal and wearing a thimble. The sun beyond my closed blinds goes into time-lapse mode, rising and falling in the space of a few seconds, or else it doesn’t, what do I care?

I’m sewing myself a suit of Dhalgren and I’ve never been happier.

When the ten thousand have been sliced free of their bindings and sewed into pants, a shirt, a vest, a jacket, oh, and, of course, a tie and Italian-leather-style belt, I shower and shave and then come back out, waiting a minute in my towel until I’m completely dry.

Then I suit up.

The text and the items and objects contained within that text merge freely up and down my body. The words “Prism, Mirror, Lens,” run up my legs; “The Ruins of Morning,” says my natty tie, while my arms bear the imprint, partially cut off but still legible, of “House of the Ax” (left) and “In Time of Plague” (right). “Creatures of Light and Darkness” and “Palimpsest” are displayed, the mirror shows me, up and down my back.

At the same time, the Brazilian-made chain object that the Kid finds early on now hangs from my neck and torso and, though I don’t look down to confirm, I can feel the blades he calls his Orchid clasped around one wrist.

I feel, overall, saturated with deep ruby red, just like the cover of the new Vintage edition, blood- and pomegranate-smelling. I stretch my arms and legs inside my new suit, and feel healthy and powerful, ready for a new spell of living.


After several days of pacing the room in my suit of Dhalgren, kicking the wasted bindings and trash under the bed and hiding my giant carving knife in case anyone barges in, I remember about the jackhammer that’s been going all this time, and decide to finally open my window. I adjust my tie and belt and saunter over.

Once my eyes have adjusted to the influx of light, I can see that the view has changed since last I occupied this room. Now, I see a few derelict stores and cafes, and, mainly, a big grassy expanse with a banner hanging over it that reads DODGE CITY SUICIDE CEMETERY, OPENING VERY SOON.

I see people talking in a cluster by a couple of bulldozers near the center, and a Local Access TV crew huddled around them. Desirous of eavesdropping, I turn on the TV in my room and tune it to Cable Access.

Sure enough, there they are. “And, so, while we haven’t ironed out all the kinks yet, the martyrs will likely go there,” a petite, shrivel-faced man points in one direction, “while the overdoses and reckless motorcycle accidents will go there,” he points in another direction. “The suicide bombers and other zealots, here,” the camera follows his pointing finger, awkwardly zooming in on a pile of a dirt, “while the disputed cases, the, er, ‘maybes,’ if you will,” go over there. Oh, and the, we’re calling them, the ‘taken by angels in the night slash sham suicides gone right,’ all go over there.”

“So you’re apportioning the whole place, looks like, down to a fairly specific level, correct?” an interviewer asks him.

He looks annoyed by the question, but nods and says, “Correct. Dodge City has campaigned, I don’t know if you all appreciate, long and hard to get the Suicide Cemetery built here. Only one of its kind in the country, you realize. Maybe in the world. It could have been anywhere, and would have been, had we not fought harder than anyone else to make sure it ended up here. We’ve got some pretty high-profile suicides in discussion — I shouldn’t say too much, but — the names Cobain and Nerval have come up behind closed doors. No promises, of course, the political entanglements when it comes to things like this are a waking nightmare, but, I’d like to say, don’t rule it out altogether.”

The signal gets hazy here as his face folds into an unlikely smile. Noticing a loose thread around the collar of my suit, I turn off the TV and rev up the sewing machine, after checking on my carving knife in its hiding place. I can tell, as I work through the night, that I’ll be seeing a lot more of this Suicide Cemetery and its shrivel-faced but outspoken proprietor in the days to come.